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Morning Briefing: Bring on the Braves!

WASHINGTON --

FIRST PITCH: What can Jonathon Niese do for an encore after Matt Harvey's wildly successful return from Tommy John surgery?

After taking two of three games from the Washington Nationals, the New York Mets open a three-game series against the unbeaten Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on Friday at 7:35 p.m. ET, with Niese making his season debut opposite left-hander Eric Stults.

FRIDAY’S NEWS REPORTS:

    • On Thursday at Nationals Park, Harvey looked like he never had left. The returning ace tossed six scoreless innings and struck out nine in his first regular-season game since Aug. 24, 2013. The Mets beat the Nationals, 6-3. It marked the first series win for the Mets against the Nats since Aug. 30-Sept. 1, 2013. Harvey struck out Bryce Harper three times. Harvey’s fastball averaged 95.6 mph, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That was just two-tenths off his average fastball velocity during a dominating 2013 season. It also was the second-highest average fastball velocity by a starting pitcher this season in the majors. San Diego’s Andrew Cashner averaged 95.9 mph on Wednesday while getting roughed up by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

      "He talks the talk but he walks the walk," general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters. "There's nothing wrong with that. Let's face it, that's a good combo. The talk provides some sizzle, and that's a good thing."

      Read columnists’ takes on Harvey’s performance from Mike Vaccaro in the Post, David Lennon in Newsday, Bob Klapisch in the Record and Juliet Macur in the Times.

      Read news recaps in the Post, Daily News, Washington Post, Journal, Newsday, Times, Record and at NJ.com and MLB.com.

  • The Mets have sold more than 30,000 tickets for Tuesday’s home game, when Harvey next pitches, team executive VP Lou DePaoli tells Mike Puma in the Post. Typically, there is a big drop in sales after the home opener, which is the preceding day. DePaoli tells Puma ticket sales are up 22 percent overall over this time last year.

  • Nats manager Matt Williams was complimentary of the Mets after Washington’s rubber-game defeat. "Right now we're chasing the Mets, so I'll tell you that," Williams said, according to Maria Guardado at NJ.com. "They're 2-1. We're 1-2. They're a really good team. They do a lot of things well on the baseball field. They're balanced offensively. Their starting pitching is really good. They had a loss at the back of their bullpen, but they've got somebody to step in and do that job. They've got good lefty matchups and guys that can fill the middle and can put in multiple innings for them, so they play the game well."

  • Walk-prone left-hander Alex Torres walked two of the three batters he faced in his Mets debut. He went to a three-ball count on the other. Read more in the Post.

  • Steven Matz took a scoreless effort into the sixth inning in his Triple-A debut, but Las Vegas was no-hit into the seventh inning and lost its season opener, 2-1, at Fresno. Relievers Domingo Tapia, Chase Huchingson and Adam Kolarek combined to allow 11 runs in defending Eastern League champion Binghamton’s 14-5 loss at Akron. Amed Rosario and Jhoan Urena had three hits apiece and Champ Stuart homered in St. Lucie’s 7-2 win against Bradenton. Savannah lost its season opener in extra innings. Read the full minor league recap here.

  • Hailey Eber in the Post reviews Mac & Cheese Frites, a new concession stand at Citi Field.

  • Michael Cuddyer is preaching a solid approach at the plate to his teammates, columnist Kevin Kernan writes in the Post.

  • Columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post contrasts the Mets and Yankees.

  • Travis d’Arnaud is 5-for-11 to begin the season. Read more in Newsday.

  • The Mets took advantage of three errors by Nats shortstop Ian Desmond in the series. Six of the Mets’ 10 runs in D.C. were unearned. Read more in the Record and Newsday.

  • From the bloggers … Faith and Fear in Flushing says Harvey Days and Thursdays should never get Mets fans down. … Mets Report wants Harvey to concentrate on pitching. … Rising Apple joins Mets fans in D.C. cheering on Harvey.

BIRTHDAYS: Minor league infielder Branden Kaupe turns 21 today. ... Edioglis Villasmil is 23.

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